Meet Victoria Santamarina, Director of GET Cities Miami
We’re thrilled to welcome Victoria Santamarina to the team as the director for GET Cities Miami! Born and raised in Argentina, Victoria came to the United States in 2012 to earn her master’s degree in Liberal Arts & International Development from Duke University. She’s always had a strong connection to the nonprofit sector and has vast experience with impact-driven work, both in the U.S. and in Latin America. She’s also partnered with enterprise level companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Coca Cola FEMSA, and Fundacion Walmart, to help low-income entrepreneurs connect with and learn how to navigate profitable markets. Most recently, she served as the Executive Director of CADENA International, an organization that responds to natural disasters and humanitarian crises worldwide.
Victoria’s experience, combined with her passion for social justice, makes her the perfect fit to lead our newest GET Cities hub in Miami. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Victoria about her motivations, her insights on the state of Miami tech, and her ultimate goals for GET Miami.
GET Cities: How do you think your previous experience will impact your approach to GET Cities?
Victoria: When I became the executive director at CADENA International, I wanted to empower the communities we touched by providing them with the tools they needed to navigate an emergency and natural disaster. So since then, I have recognized the importance of being proactive and creating solid and sustainable solutions to achieve impact and systemic change.
My approach to systemic change work starts with understanding the complexity through mapping the ecosystem. This begins with centering the problem or need, determining who is most affected, and building out from there to identify further connections and critical stakeholders. You also need to identify who has the most influence within the ecosystem, the current decision-makers, and who is not currently involved in the decision-making process. This has been a critical component of all my past roles, whether I was working to identify the markets in Mexico that could be inclusive of low-income entrepreneurs or identifying which stakeholders were crucial to revitalizing a community after a crisis. I plan to use that same approach here in Miami with GET Cities.
GET Cities: What drew you to GET Cities?
Victoria: Miami’s ecosystem is young and thriving. In the last couple of months, Miami’s tech industry has been growing in different ways: new actors are in town, entrepreneurs are rising, and the possibilities are flourishing. So right now, we have the opportunity to build a more inclusive ecosystem here in Miami, and that thrills me. As a woman, I understand the importance of working towards reducing, on some level, the vulnerability that gender minorities suffer every day.
GET Cities: We’ve heard a lot about Miami being in the midst of a “tech renaissance” as the city’s tech scene continues to experience rapid growth. In your opinion, what is the driving force behind the influx of tech talent and companies?
Victoria: One of the things that differentiates Miami from other tech hubs is that, geographically, Miami is in a very strategic place. The city benefits from being very close to countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia — all countries with a lot of innovation and a lot of tech startups. There is a huge advantageous connection with the prosperous ecosystem and market of the Caribbean and Latin American region, through social ties as well as ports, flights and telecommunication links.
Also, during the pandemic a lot of people questioned why they’re such high taxes while living in small (and expensive) apartments. Once many people started working remotely, Miami became a lot more attractive because of the lower taxes, more affordable housing options, and overall a better quality of life.
GET Cities: What do you think is unique or interesting about Miami’s tech ecosystem that sets it apart from our other two city hubs (Chicago and DC)?
Victoria: Miami has several tecnolatinas based here. These are companies that started in Latin America and are now based in Miami. So we have a really interesting opportunity to impact the economy and development of other countries through our work here. Of course our main focus will be Miami, but working with these companies will have an indirect impact in several countries in Latin America as well. This bidirectional connection to Latin America is an important experience to represent in a National movement in the US, as the Hispanic and immigrant population continues to grow here as well.
I’m grateful for the experience we already have from working in Chicago and DC, and I’m sure it will give me a lot of guidance. But I’m looking forward to using what we learn in Miami to build upon our work in other cities as well.
GET Cities: Over 70% of Miami residents identify as Hispanic, and more than 50% of residents were born outside the U.S. How do you hope to tailor the GET Cities model to reach populations in Miami in a way that accounts not just for differences in race and gender — which we’ve focused on most in Chicago and DC — but also nationality and cultural background?
Victoria: I think a starting point will be integrating different languages, such as Spanish or Portuguese, into our programming. The fact that we’ll have so many people of so many distinct nationalities and cultures involved will make this program so much more prosperous, and I’m looking forward to embracing everyone’s differences positively.
GET Cities: We’ve talked a lot about diversity in terms of race and ethnicity. What about gender? What does gender equity mean in Miami?
Victoria: Currently, gender equity isn’t discussed much in Miami because race and ethnicity dominate the conversation. Issues around immigration, for example, are critical topics that affect everyone in Miami, no matter your background, so we tend not even to consider other types of marginalization. GET Cities has the opportunity to open those spaces of communication and make sure Miami starts having those critical gender equity reflections and conversations.
GET Cities: What excites you the most about doing this work in Miami?
Victoria: Miami is a very resilient city with many immigrants who want to work hard, succeed, and have a better life. Even among many born here, their father, mother, and previous generations struggled to build a life for themselves and their family. As an immigrant, I know from firsthand experience how tough it is to start a new life in a different country. However, those experiences have created a unique sense of community. Everyone wants to see this city grow and have a thriving economy. I feel like we’ll be expanding GET Cities to include a fantastic community that wants to grow and develop while still retaining its strength and values.
GET Cities: What is your overall vision for GET Cities in Miami?
Victoria: This ecosystem is still very new, and from what I’ve seen, these types of conversations are not taking place. Right now, the focus is on growth and attracting people and companies to the city, so having difficult conversations about equity is not on the agenda. So in that sense, GET Cities has this vast opportunity to help build a tech industry in Miami centered on inclusivity.